Locals compete in Robofest

Students from Belleview Middle and The Cornerstone School traveled to Michigan for world championship event.

Team members and families from Belleview Middle School’s Robocat Robotics teams. Photo courtesy Anthony Ness

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Posted May 23, 2023 | By Susan Smiley-Height

From May 11-13, students from schools in Marion County took part in the Robofest World Championship, held at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. The competition attracted teams from around the world. Among them were teams from Belleview Middle School (BMS) and The Cornerstone School in Ocala.

“We had four teams, consisting of 11 students attend. Each student competed in two events,” said Anthony Ness, who teaches robotics, world history and critical thinking at BMS.  “Of the 71 teams in attendance, I believe we were the only public school. In addition to the U.S., there were 13 other countries in attendance.”

Robofest is a series of competitions for students from fourth grade through college age. The robots are autonomous, controlled by software developed by team members. In the Game event, robots are designed to accomplish a task that changes each year, with some mission requirements revealed just before the event. Other divisions include Exhibition, in which teams develop a task and build a robot to accomplish it; RoboArts, in which robots are created and programmed to perform in areas such as music and visual arts; RoboMed, in which teams create robots that perform tasks in healthcare and the life sciences; the Unknown Mission Challenge, in which mission tasks are unknown until the day of competition; RoboParade, a parade of autonomous robot “floats;” and BottleSumo, in which robots are programmed to push a bottle or the other robot off a table.

Robocats Mountain Lion Cohen Medeiros sets up for a round of Robot Game. Photo courtesy Anthony Ness

According to Ness, the BMS projects included:

  • Tiny Tigers: Build a vacuum engine out of Legos. The engine had a transmission that would allow it to turn at different RPMs.
  • Tigers: Self-driving car that would follow a track and stop at a “recharge station” that was green (wind and solar power).
  • Pumas: Garbage truck that was autonomous and ran on burning garbage.

“All projects were built using Lego Mindstorm robotics kits. As you can guess, they weren’t full size, just models with a 4-minute presentation that talked about how it would work and research they did to develop their idea,” Ness explained.

Robocat Tiger Rowyn Picard talks to a competitor from Taiwan. Photo courtesy Anthony Ness

The team members were:

  • Robocat Tiny Tigers: Exhibition – Sabastian Nealy, Zackory Teets and Blake Ritz
  • Robocat Tigers: Exhibition – Zackery Picard, Rowyn Picard, Michael Khadaran and Kaden Preston
  • Robocat Pumas: Exhibition – Rohan Gupta, Blake Lewis and Vlad Nygaard
  • Robocat Mountain Lion: Game – Cohen Medeiros

“The Tiny Tigers took second place for People’s Choice,” Ness noted.

In the exhibition categories, the Pumas placed fourth, Tigers fifth and Tiny Tigers sixth. The Mountain Lions placed 20th in the Robot Game.

Brooke Schultheis, marketing and development coordinator for The Cornerstone School, said, “This was the first time that teams from The Cornerstone School qualified for the World Championship and we are so proud of their efforts. Even though they didn’t place at the event this year, they learned so much from the experience. We can’t wait for next year’s event!”

According to Kevin Christian, director of public relations for Marion County Public Schools, the district has other schools with robotics programs, “but none at the competitive level like BMS.”

Robofest first place awards went to teams from Michigan, Florida, Hong Kong, Macau, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

“Robofest teaches so many students every year important lessons about the jobs of our increasingly robot-driven and automated future, making STEAM education fun,” said Christopher Cartwright, Robofest director and associate professor of mathematics at LTU, in a news release.

Robofest was invented at LTU in 1999 by computer science professor C.J. Chung. More than 34,300 students have participated in the program. For more information, visit robofest.net.

Robocats Tiny Tigers Blake Ritz, Sabastian Nealy and Zackory Teets receive the second place People’s Choice award. Photo courtesy Anthony Ness


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